India A v WI A, 3rd unofficial ODI, Bangalore September 19, 2013

Aparajith makes opportunity count

Despite losing the series after taking a lead in the opening game, there were individual gains for India. Yuvraj Singh's return to form after months of no match practice was timely, with the home season approaching, and was what drew spectators to the thousands at the Chinnaswamy, and they grew bigger for each game. B Aparajith was introduced to television audiences at this time last year during the Under-19 World Cup and his all-round performances marked him out as a talent to watch. After serving drinks in the first two games, Aparajith was given an opportunity in the third and enhanced his reputation with a composed half-century at the top, though in a losing cause.

Ironically, Aparajith had replaced his captain from that World Cup, Unmukt Chand, who failed in the first two games. Majority of his scoring shots were off the front foot, but his first boundary was a confident, one-legged pull off a short ball from Andre Russell over fine leg. He was lucky, though, when on 11, he gloved a ball down the leg side. Several West Indian players went up in appeal but the wicketkeeper Devon Thomas, strangely, didn't show any enthusiasm.

He was strong off his pads and was ready to play the supporting role to his captain Yuvraj, who took it on himself to belt boundaries. Aparajith said he worked to a plan of taking singles and handing Yuvraj the strike for the cause of the team.

"It was a nice experience [batting with Yuvraj]. It was the first time I was batting with Yuvraj," Aparajith said. "I just had to give him the strike because he was trying to hit and he was striking the ball really well. He was looking for boundaries because he was cramping up. It made my innings easier."

Aparajith picked gaps through the off side with delicate late cuts off the spinners and seamers and following his fifty, crunched two consecutive boundaries through the covers off the offspinner Ashley Nurse. When he launched left-arm spinner Veerasammy Permaul over long-off for his only six, a worried West Indies A captain Kieran Powell quickly summoned his fielders for a quick pep talk. A 19-year-old taking them on was enough to prompt an emergency meeting.

Yuvraj's dismissal in the 30th over left India needing a further 155. It increased the responsibility on the set Aparajith, then on 63. He fell soon after in the 33rd over, bowled off a quicker, straighter delivery from Permaul off the pads. Aparajith regretted that he couldn't stick around for the batting Powerplay, taken after 35 overs.

"My plan was to take it till the Powerplay with Kedar Jadhav," he said. "We had seven wickets in hand then. The Powerplay was an important stage but I got out before that and it was the wrong time to go."

Powell said the homework his team had put in after the hammering in the opening game paid off. He didn't elaborate on those strategies, but one of them which paid off was bringing in Leon Johnson and Jonathan Carter from the second game and the two middle-order batsmen made telling contributions. Their positive batting took West Indies to scores to 279 and 312, which the hosts failed to match.

"After the first game we got to observe the Indians and we strategised and came out and executed our plans brilliantly," Powell said.

Powell added that a century from Kirk Edwards was to be expected, so long as he occupied the crease long enough. After failing to convert his starts from the first two games, Edwards made a run-a-ball 104.

"He gave himself a chance to bat deep into the innings," Powell said. "He knew that if he did so, he would go on to get a century. He did it and the other guys batted around him to get us to a winning score."

Kanishkaa Balachandran is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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